1. Since the beginning of industrialization in the 19th century, coal has had a significant impact on the world’s energy supply. To this day, coal is still one of the leading energy sources amongst all the fossil fuels. India too has had a long history of commercial coal mining spanning over 240 years. Started in 1774 by East India Company in the Raniganj Coalfield along the western bank of river Damodar, the Indian coal industry has consistently evolved over the ages. With the enactment of the Coal Mines Act, 1973, all coal mines in India were nationalized, which otherwise, had primarily been a private sector enterprise. Subsequently, Coal India Limited (CIL) was constituted as a new public-sector company on 01 Nov 75, to enable better organizational and operational efficiency in the coal sector. CIL is now the world’s largest coal-producing company, which produced 554.14 Million Tons (MT) in 2016-17, contributing to 84% of the country’s entire coal output. However, the monopoly over commercial mining that state-owned Coal India enjoyed since nationalisation in 1973, was broken by the government in Feb 18, by permitting private firms to enter the commercial coal mining industry.
2. In contrast to the Coal Industry, the first commercial discovery of oil and natural gas in India was made in 1889 in Digboi, Assam. However, the Natural Gas Industry gained significance only in the 1970s, after the discovery of large reserves in the South Basin fields by Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC). Subsequently, the state-owned Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) was created in 1984, as a central Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Ministry of Petroleum ; Natural Gas (MoPNG), to promote gas use and develop midstream and downstream gas infrastructure.
3. While natural gas has historically been a part of India’s energy mix, it has never played a prominent role till date, due to lesser reserves in comparison and relatively easier availability of coal. With the 5th largest proven coal reserves in the world after US, Russia, Australia & China, selection of coal as the dominant fuel in the country’s energy mix is but obvious. However, the demand for natural gas is expected to rise in future, due to the increasing need for energy production and the lesser environmental effects it has, compared to other fossil fuels. While the government executes new projects towards shifting to renewable sources of energy, utilisation of the two most important fossil fuels for meeting the ever-growing energy demand of the country has to be carefully weighed and judiciously exercised by the policymakers.